May 28, 2007


My basic (VFR) flying skills always bug me nowadays — they seem to deteriorate way too quickly to the point where I make embarassing landings and laboured radio calls in front of an imagined audience of thousands, and my pattern work is often sloppy to the point of distraction. For all my supposed skills at flying an approach to minimums, the landing that follows is often the low point (sorry) of the approach (which is rarely particularly precise in the first place, but never mind), and being able to cope (more-or-less) with a complex new IFR clearance on-the-fly under the hood doesn't seem to prevent me from stumbling on first call-up to NorCal Approach or Hayward Tower during a simple VFR fly-about.

So I dedicate this morning to just … flying about, VFR. A landing here, a landing there, a call to the tower here, a call to the tower there. That sort of thing — and it's a glorious Bay Area day to do it on, too: cool, sunny, breezy, clear. And I end up with some valuable landing practice, a tighter grip on pattern work, a renewed sense of just what I like about VFR flying (the just-pottering-about, the make-it-up-as-you-go approach, the sightseeing…), and — quite accidentally — I get to share the pattern at Livermore (KLVK) with both a B-17 Flying Fortress and a B-25 Mitchell bomber.

The original Nine-Oh-NineWhat I didn't know when I popped over the hills to Livermore in one of the club's little 172 SPs was that the Collings Foundation's Wings Of Freedom 2007 tour was in Livermore for the Memorial Day weekend, and the B-25 and B-17 ("Nine-Oh-Nine") were both being flown around for paying donors in between display breaks on the ramp (the accompanying B-24 was on the ramp, but didn't fly while I was there). So I ended up doing my touch and goes with the immense distractions of the B-17 first approaching to land on 25R while I was on the left, and then watching both it and the B-25 take off and depart for another flight up the Diablo Valley. The sight of the B-17 lumbering slowly away, a few hundred feet above the ground, a few hundred metres away at my 2 o'clock as I took off on the parallel was worth the agony of all that around-and-around remedial landing practice, for sure; ditto with the smaller B-25.

It's tempting to say I wish I'd had a camera, but the truth is I did have a camera with me — but sometimes it's just better to watch… (I found someone else's photos from last year's events here).

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